29 Jul Cruisin California: a (cruiser) skateboard travel guide
Beautiful beaches, lively cities, and perfect weather – there are practically endless reasons to visit the great state of California. With a landmass of around 403,882 sq km., California is roughly 100,000 sq km. larger than Italy. That means there’s a whole lot of things to see and do! Specifically, the Southwest region of California is an especially popular travel destination.
Moreso, this region is historically known for something we hold close to our heart at Cruisin City – Skateboarding! It’s no secret that skateboarding originated in Southern California in the 1960s. Many of the world’s top brands like Santa Cruz, Dusters and Z-Flex were born in California and are still even based there today. A good reason for this could be that Southern California is just amazing for skateboarding and skate culture.
In addition to the year-round warm and typically dry weather, there’s a skatepark or known skate spots in practically every town and city. The mild climate also means that pavement and asphalt in these regions are generally quite smooth as it rarely endures harsh weather conditions.
These things come together to make Southern California sort of the “home of skateboarding” in many ways. The majority of the world’s top pro skaters live here and there’s a massive skateboarding community overall. Not to mention, there are many breathtakingly beautiful places to ride your cruiser skateboard! From boardwalks to mountains and even in big cities like Los Angeles, there’s practically a lifetime worth of cool places to cruise.
Many would consider Southern California to be a “dream destination” for cruiser lovers and skateboarders alike. This is exactly why we’ve come up with the Cruisin’ California Cruiser Skateboard Travel Guide! This guide exists to create a “roadmap” for skateboard and cruiser enthusiasts to plan their next trip to the southwestern regions of California.
Forget boring travel guides filled with lame roadside attractions, this guide will point out specific skateboarding landmarks, skateparks, skate spots, places to cruise, and special destinations that skaters will love. In addition, we’ve added some dope places to stay overnight and even some restaurants, bars, and breweries, several of which are owned and operated by skateboarders. While some of the spots and skateparks may be more suitable for skateboards, other routes and boardwalks may be best enjoyed with your cruiser skateboard. Think of this guide as your source for both a relaxing vacation and a gnarly skate trip!
Santa Cruz to Big Sur State Park
Our California cruiser journey actually begins in west-central California, just outside of what could still be considered “southern” California – Santa Cruz. It’s for good reason that we’ve chosen to start here!
As you’ve probably guessed, Santa Cruz is home to Santa Cruz Skateboards, but there’s much more to it than that. Santa Cruz is also home to one of the largest skateboard distribution companies in the world – NHS Fun Factory. NHS supplies the world’s skate shops with brands like Independent Trucks, OJ & Ricta wheels, and Mob Griptape.
While a warehouse filled with skate stuff might not be that exciting, what’s really cool is the NHS Skate Museum that’s located here. This skate museum is home to hundreds of one-of-a-kind skate items, many donated directly from legendary pros, dating back to the earliest days of skateboarding history.
However, the museum is not always open to the public. Instead, you can book a museum tour by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, a member of the NHS team will personally guide you, explaining the significance of the items displayed in the museum. Did you know that Thrasher Magazine originally started to promote Independent Trucks? You’ll learn all about things like this at the NHS Skate Museum!
From Santa Cruz, one option to head south is the picturesque Route 1 (CA-1) highway. This highway leads you past beautiful Monterey and eventually along the incredible Big Sur coastline.
Bring your camera, the route is lined with ocean views, rocky cliffs, and the Big Sur State Park even features five waterfalls to be discovered. Traveling through Big Sur brings us to our next destination.
After a day of exploring along Route 1, you’ll probably be looking for someplace to stay overnight. Around 2.5 hours south of Santa Cruz you’ll come across Treebones Resort on the southern end of Big Sur State Park. This resort offers a “Glamping” (glamorous camping) experience that’s sure to be a lot more fun than a roadside motel! Here, it’s possible to bring your own tent and rent a campsite overlooking the ocean.
Or, there are several different “room” options including a yurt (basically a mini-tent house) or some really special options like a twig-hut. If you’re considering staying here, just be sure to check availability as the resort can be fully booked several months in advance! Also, Cruisin City has not received anything for recommending this resort, it’s just a super cool place to stay on the coast!
San Luis Obispo to Hermosa Beach
After a relaxing stay at the resort, you’ll probably want to get back to shredding! Continue south down Route 1 until you reach San Luis Obispo (abbreviated SLO). This relatively small city surrounded by hills happens to be home to SLO skatepark. This artistically-designed park features a street section on one side as well as two full-size bowls and a snake-run style bowl that’s perfect for ripping on your cruiser board!
SLO has a thriving skate scene with many friendly locals and you might even see some pros coming through to skate. This town is also famous for its massive farmer’s market every Thursday from 6pm-9pm, a great idea for dinner after a day of skating!
When you’ve seen what SLO has to offer, you can continue south towards Los Angeles. However, there are tons of things to see along the way. Santa Maria, the Los Padres National Forest, the Mediterranean-style buildings of Santa Barbara, beautiful beaches of Ventura, and celebrity homes of Malibu can all be found along the route to our next destination – Santa Monica!
Once in Santa Monica, you are now at the “proving grounds” to which much of modern skateboarding began. It also happens to be one of the most epic places on earth to ride your cruiser! From Santa Monica Beach to Venice Beach, you’ll find the Ocean Front Walk, a wide pedestrian path and a famous cruising destination.
This strip is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, making this area definitely worth a day trip on your cruiser vacation! Along this strip, you’ll also see the iconic “Santa Monica triple set” and the Venice Beach “sand gaps/ledges” skate spots. The long path along the beach also has some waxed curbs for old-school slappy grinds and boardslides.
Finally, you’re not far away from the legendary Venice Beach Skatepark. We’ve even written a blog article featuring info about riding your cruiser at the Venice Beach Skatepark, check it out here!
If you get hungry while skating, be sure to check out the Venice Ale House just north from the skatepark up the Ocean Front Walk. Venice Ale House serves a selection of American dishes and, if you order a flight of beers, the beer is actually served to you on a cruiser skateboard! If they have it, be sure to try out their “Longboard Lager” beer.
Long Beach to Dana Point
While you’re on this side of Los Angeles, there are also many other cool places nearby. Lovers of old-school skate decks and classic brands like Santa Monica Airlines will have to stop by Rip City Skates. This small, family-owned skate shop has been around since 1978 and they proudly supply several of the earliest skate brands. Their shop is located directly down Santa Monica Boulevard heading towards LA from the Santa Monica beach.
South of the Venice Beach area and on the other side of Marina Del Rey, you’ll find a long and smooth path that goes through Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach which is perfect for cruising along the shoreline.
If the ocean waves have caught your eye, check out Spyder Surfboards just off Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach. Here, you can rent a surfboard and try to catch some waves by the Hermosa Beach Pier just down the street. And when comes the time to eat, we recommend the American Junkie gastropub, featuring many legendary old-school skate decks decorating the walls. Just across the street, you can frequently catch live local rock bands, djs and singers playing/singing at Tower 12, a surf-themed bar and restaurant featuring a full-sized surfboard “bar” in the center and a terrace. Check out the next events here! You’ll also find many other cool restaurants and bars along the same street as American Junkie and Tower 12!
As you head south from the Santa Monica area, you may want to check out Long Beach. The LBC is currently home to many of today’s top pro skaters like Jamie Foy, Boo Johnson, and Kyle Walker, not to mention its Snoop Dogg’s hometown! There’s a thriving skate scene here that combines with a hip, artistic community.
You’ll find many amazing and unique restaurants, bars, and there’s a long bike path along Junipero Beach that’s perfect for a late-night cruise! While it lacks in transition elements for cruisers, you could check out Cherry Skatepark while you’re in Long Beach. This simple park is known for being the local park of many pros who live in the area, making it a lively hangout destination for skaters.
From here, you’re not terribly far from our next destination – Huntington Beach. Like many of the previous places we’ve discussed, Huntington Beach also has a unique and thriving skate scene. Many of the biggest skateboarding companies such as Element Skateboards, Volcom, and Vans are headquartered in Huntington Beach or the surrounding cities like Irvine and Costa Mesa.
After a shred at the famous Vans “Off the wall” Skatepark in north HB, you’re going to be hungry! This is where Grinderz comes in. Grinderz is a skater-owned and operated burger restaurant with one of their locations conveniently placed right next to the Vans OTW Skatepark. Their second location is in Costa Mesa. Say goodbye to your diet, Grinderz serves up delicious loaded burgers and their famous “Pigsty fries” along with a rotating tap of craft beers. Inside the small restaurant, you’ll find original artwork from skaters as well as autographed decks from many skate legends who have visited. Check them out on Instagram @grinderz to see some serious “food porn”!
Want to switch up your sidewalk surfer again and hit some real ocean waves? If you’re looking for a place to spend a few days and nights just south of Huntington Beach, we highly recommend you to check out The Cali Camp in Dana Point! TheCaliCamp is an overnight surf camp where you can stay from 4 days up to a month, meeting and surfing with awesome guests from around the world. Whether you’ve surfed many times before or if you’ve never even seen a real surfboard, this destination will offer an unforgettable experience! Dave and his team of experienced local surf guides will help you discover world-class surf spots around San Diego, Oceanside, Trestles, Orange County, and Huntington/Newport Beach, finding the best waves for you. The price includes room, breakfast, surfboard and wetsuit rental for your entire stay. The Cali Camp is a great option to fully enjoy what the ocean has to offer during your California trip!
San Clemente to Oceanside
South from Dana Point, head down Highway 5 to reach sunny San Clemente.
This small city features beautiful Spanish-style architecture and even more beautiful beaches to enjoy. San Clemente also has a reasonably nice concrete skatepark with a good amount of transition obstacles to carve on your cruiser, plus it is the local skatepark of Ryan Sheckler! He’ll probably be at his private indoor skatepark nearby, but who knows, maybe you’ll see him cruising around too!
From San Clemente, get back on highway 5 heading south along the coast.
Eventually, you’ll arrive in Oceanside, the final stop of our cruiser journey!
After such a long adventure, it’s definitely time for a little celebration. There’s no better place for celebration than an evening at Black Plague Brewing! You may have seen skaters like Nyjah Huston or Aaron “Jaws” Homoki wearing Black Plague clothing or hats. This is largely due to the co-founder and president being legendary pro skater Jordan Hoffart. Black Plague is one of the very few, if not only, skater-owned brewery in the world.
Plus, since the brewery is located in an open warehouse-type building, skateboard video premieres and skate events are regularly held on-site! In addition to their big selection of craft Black Plague beers, they’ve also just released a new “Tony Hawps Birdhouse IPA” – the first “pro model” beer of Tony Hawk! Honestly, every skater should probably taste this beer at least once in their life. Think about it, with every beer you drink, you are supporting a fellow skateboarder! You can’t go wrong with that.
So, you’ve survived what was hopefully the trip of a lifetime and hopefully made many of your skateboard dreams come true! At Cruisin City, we hope the Cruisin’ California Cruiser Skateboard Travel Guide has given you some helpful tips and ideas to make your cruiser vacation the best it can be. Just be sure to send us some pictures of your trip!
Text by Skatetexter